Friday, September 23, 2011

After the Fall - The Road Ahead?

What lies ahead of us after the Fall? What Fall, you may ask? America and European nations stand on brink of a fall in currency values and wholesale economic paralysis. No matter what form it takes: hyper-inflation, deflation, partial or complete, the results will affect everyone to varying degrees.

What, then, may the road ahead of look like after "the Fall?" We see the American Congress (seen as a symbol of American public opinion) in paralysis. Some say the government should uphold spending as a safety net to wholesale collapse. Others say continued spending in the face of such immense debt and deficits is irresponsible and, itself, responsible for wholesale collapse. As I have written previously, it probably doesn't make much difference as the result is the same.

For today, however, I want to roll the film ahead and peek behind the curtain of the road ahead. What are the consequences of a new economy in which the central government plays a greatly reduced role in the lives of its citizens (whether in America or in Europe)? Here are some possibilities:

1.     So long as major war(s) are not imposed upon us, we can expect a great reduction in public and governmental willingness to intervene militarily in off shore wars. If things go this direction (and not towards MORE international warfare), the reduction in military spending for personnel, facilities, and weaponry will result in the unemployment of thousands, with a concomitant ripple down affect.
2.     We saw how World War II was a major economic engine that drove the 1930's Depression from the national scene. While the Depression was not necessarily the cause of that war, we might see that a worldwide economic collapse or stagnation might generate warfare especially around energy resources, or as a window to more effective and devastating acts of terrorism. When things are tough at home, uniting against a common "enemy" can be "good" politics and "good" economics, if you know what I mean.
3.     Social services and support systems will be greatly reduced in their funding. Charity will shift to the private sector, the individual, and to the nonprofit sector with the result that many otherwise on some form of relief or subsidy will have a difficult time. Social unrest is certain to result and polarization of public attitudes towards the poor will certainly make things even more difficult.
4.     A renewed emphasis on both individualism and cooperation will surface. Faith-based groups, ideologue-based groups (green or cause oriented), and local partisans will form to tackle various needs and causes. 
5.     A large increase in part-time or shared jobs, telecommuting and other forms of shared, partial, or results-based (commissions, e.g.) jobs will occur. The trend to the use of subcontractors will continue to accelerate.
6.     Private, corporate, union and nonprofit pensions will be reduced.
7.     Despite the glut of homes on the market, more people will live together, whether related or unrelated.
8.     A small but growing exodus out of the cities will begin in the face of unemployment and harsher living conditions, including scarcity of food, social instability, and cost of utilities.
9.     The trend toward personal or small farms will accelerate. 
10. Communes, cooperatives, co-housing, and intentional communities will become visible and will grow in number and influence.
11. Small numbers of westerners will move to other countries and expatriates of such countries currently living in the west will return to their country of origin.
12. Government spending will shift toward infrastructure and jobs, and away from social services. 
13. A rapid increase in the use of barter clubs will be seen.
14. The high cost of public transportation may be strangled by lack of public funding and interest. Low-cost individual transportation systems (from bicycles, motorcycles, smart cars and hybrids), including telecommuting and living near one's workplace, will increase.
15. Energy conservation will become high profile and high priority in all sectors. 
16. Agri-business will lose substantial subsidies provoking more instability in food prices and boosting interest in individuals growing their own food (and locally grown produce).
17. Immigration into the U.S. will slow due to slow economy and tightened security and public attitudes.
18. Alternative forms of currency (not just bartering) will pop up here and there, greatly enhanced to the extent internet remains stable. 
19. Government efforts to regulate will become increasingly ineffective. Regulatory power will shift to the state and local levels, but even here, will be lax or inconsistent from place to place. Crime or lack of conformity to laws and regulations will skyrocket. Society will become far more random and chaotic while yet free and enterprising.
20. Travel will be greatly reduced and more emphasis will be placed on local recreation, sports, and holidays. People will tend more to stay at home or local.
21. Home improvement projects, especially low-cost and energy-efficient (with rapid payback), will accelerate.
22. Real estate prices, in general, will remain low, stable, or dropping for years to come (with various exceptions of course!) Commercial real estate will be the next sector to drop hard and fast. Malls will be devastated and big-box shopping will move even more strongly to the internet (assuming the internet remains reasonably stable).
23. A new growth industry in trade and labor skills will slowly build. Jobs in small manufacturing activities will slowly begin to build momentum as the economic and energetic incentives to make things locally or nationally grows.
24. A trend toward simplicity in technology, lifestyle, and household products will begin.
25. The trend toward non-impact exercise and interest in yoga and meditation will grow at an accelerating rate. Fewer people will be able to afford or have interest in high-tech gymnasiums, pools, and equipment.
26. Public interest and acceptance of non-sectarian spiritual values, beliefs, and association will begin to rise. This will threaten mainline and sectarian oriented churches and institutions. Mainline churches will suffer in membership and revenues, although there will be exceptions and some push-back as members turn increasingly to their faith for comfort.
27. Trend toward alternative health care and naturopathic and energy healing will increase rapidly both for economic reasons and for the lack of satisfaction with allopathic solutions.
28. Health care industry will be devastated, whether private or public due to economic pressures.
29. It would seem that conflict and instability in less developed countries around the world will increase. But this will be mitigated (perhaps) by economic paralysis. We will probably see an inconsistent and spotty pattern of conflict alternating with reconciliation, both at more local levels with less interference from developed countries. 
30. Against the prior point is an increase in the intensity of competition for natural resources among all countries and especially the (relatively) richer nations.
31. Increased attention and commitment to alternative energy sources will be slowed by economic troubles creating an inconsistent stop and start pattern of research, development and implementation around the world. Necessity will be the mother of invention and solutions will tend to be more local than global.
32. Lifestyles in developed countries hard hit by economic troubles will tend to polarize but in general will move towards traditional, universal, and simpler values: health, commitment, saving, hard work, community and family. I avoid the label here of conservative in favor of natural, balanced, and sustainable living in all levels: earth-oriented, health-oriented, family-oriented, community-oriented, and church-oriented values and lifestyles.
32.5 The public school system in America will continue its steady decline. Committed parents will continue to look for alternatives but economic woes will make traditional private school increasingly out of reach. Tutors, small non-profit schools staffed by dedicated staff and volunteers, after-school enhancement activities, character and holistic education, home schooling, and volunteer associations will sprout everywhere. Online and internet alternatives, especially in higher grades and education, will skyrocket almost as fast as costs and prices.
33. The BIG IF'S that can drastically affect all of the above are as follows: war, plague, and natural catastrophes.
34. War between nations is not difficult to imagine when global conditions become stressed and competitive. Terrorist use of small nuclear devices could wreak havoc and great suffering.
35. Pandemics are constantly being touted as just around the corner. Millions could be affected.
36. Natural catastrophes are seen, by the public at least, as increasing in both frequency and intensity of devastation. Predicted sunspot activity could herald global disaster for telecommunications, travel, and energy production. Meteor hitting earth is a popular fear as is a shifting of the poles (perhaps as a result of the former).
37. When the time arrives for a general subsiding of our troubles on earth, it seems that humanity will so yearn for peace, health, and prosperity that a long and gradual period of relative security and peace would undoubtedly result. 
How long a time frame is all of the above? Well not short like a recession, certainly. The trends above are long-term but are listed because I feel that in the few years ahead of us we will be able to discern their appearance. Those who live with faith, share with love, pray with devotion, and act courageously and creatively will fare well, spiritually for sure and likely in most other ways as well.

May we live in God's light and peace as His children!

Nayaswami Hriman